Brock professor reveals tips for novice language teachers

As Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) continues to rapidly grow in popularity and demand, Thomas Farrell, Professor of Applied Linguistics at Brock University, wants to help better prepare those entering the dynamic field.

Language teachers are often confronted with complex social, economic, political and cultural challenges in the workplace — issues not addressed in formal training.

Farrell has found that new TESOL teachers are often surprised by the full range of issues their jobs actually involve and that certain complex issues they face are often not adequately dealt with during their studies in language teacher education programs.

In Farrell’s book, Reflecting on Critical Incidents in Language Education: 40 Dilemmas for Novice TESOL Professionals, he examines critical incidents that fall in the gap between what language teachers have learned in their courses and the actual classroom realities they face to help better prepare them for the reality of what they will be teaching in.

The critical incidents covered in the book are based on actual experiences shared by novice TESOL practitioners and are organized within connected themes, offering an easy-to-use, dynamic manual for new language teachers to become stronger TESOL educators.

“To effectively create a positive classroom community, language teachers must learn how to foster relationships with challenging students, confront cultural tensions between students, establish a ‘teacher role’ with students and promote collaboration among students,” says Farrell.

Curriculum development is also a challenge for new teachers, he says.

“Critical incidents include working with mandated curricula, integrating content and language, aligning lessons to standards and facing a lack of resources.”

The book also offers tips on classroom management, developing students’ speaking, reading, listening and writing skills, addressing workplace challenges and professional development.

Farrell has authored, co-authored and edited nearly 30 books on reflective practice for language teachers, emphasizing the importance reflection has on professional development and has recently presented his research at many recent TESOL conferences, including ones in Dubai and Seattle.

“In Dubai at TESOL Arabia and in Seattle at TESOL International, both audiences were receptive to the idea of encouraging TESOL teachers to reflect on their practice and seemed enthusiastic to take the responsibility for the decisions they make in order to provide the best opportunities for their students to learn English as a second or foreign language,” he says.

In his upcoming book, Voices In TESOL: Preservice Teacher Education, Farrell expands on his research by examining the voices of language teacher educators and learner teachers from different parts of the world as they develop better and more reflective ways of integrating theory with practice, better preparing them for their teaching experiences.

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